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Aug 16, 2019

Heart Failure in Young Adults

Study finds that young patients with heart failure face lower risk of death but poorer quality of life than the elderly.

Heart failure affects patients differently depending on their age, based on a recent study that found young patients with heart failure face lower risk of death but poorer quality of life than the elderly. Findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and suggest that heart failure treatment should vary by age to improve outcomes.

Using data from three large clinical trials, this study looked at how heart failure differs between young and old patients. The study included nearly 8,500 patients with heart failure whose ages ranged anywhere from 50 to 90 years old. The goal of the analysis was to see how young and old patients with heart failure differ and whether they have any major differences in outcomes such as survival and quality of life.

Overall, 20% of participants were between 56 and 64 years of age, and nearly two-thirds were between the ages of 65 and 84. The remainder of patients were 55 years old or younger (6%) and 85 years or older (5%).

When comparing the profiles of patients with heart failure, there were a few key differences between the youngest (55 and younger) and oldest (85 and older) patients. The youngest patients were more likely to be nonwhite males while older patients were more likely to be white females. The youngest heart failure patients were also more likely to be obese, while elderly patients were sicker with more pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, kidney disease and an irregular heart rhythm.

When it came to outcomes, there were a few major differences in survival and quality of life as well. Not surprisingly, those in the oldest age group had more than seven times greater risk of death than patients in the youngest group. However, younger adults reported a worse quality of life than the oldest patients with heart failure. Young adults were also significantly more likely to die of heart-related causes, particularly sudden cardiac death.

What findings highlight, according to authors, is that heart failure is not just a disease of the elderly. While most patients with heart failure are older, heart failure can still affect young adults.

Additionally, it’s clear that heart failure affects patients differently based on age, requiring unique prevention and treatment. For young patients, that means addressing obesity and reducing risk for sudden cardiac arrest, which are particularly common in patients under 55 years old. It also means taking steps to improve symptoms, which is especially important in young adults who have high survival rates but poor quality of life.

Read the article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.
  • How is heart failure treated?

  • Although treatments for heart failure rarely reverse or stop the progression of the disease, various therapies can help slow the progression of heart failure, such as medications, surgeries and medical devices. Which therapies are best depends on each individual patient.

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